On one of my first few days in Kyoto, I went to the Kyoto Goen National Gardens and the Kyoto Imperial Palace, which is set within them. On my way there, I walked past the Goo Shrine.
At this stage I had not yet understood that I would see shrines everywhere I went. This one caught my eye because of all the statues of boar. I was immediately puzzled. Clearly in my mind a wild boar is only ever a threat. I soon came to understand that fearsome, potentially lethal beasts can protect you from your enemies! This was a whole new thought for me, generated at this shrine which commemorates a wounded warrior who escaped his pursuers with the help of 300 wild boar, and was healed by a miracle.
I walked on to the Imperial Palace in its immense grounds. First there came the Muku Tree, beside which an ancestor was killed many, many years ago. I loved the fact that this tree was the thing being commemorated, and was astonished by the way the tree was being supported. And there it stands, right by the Imperial Palace.
It was a punishingly hot day in which I took much less pleasure in this wide stretch of gravel with no sign of shade, than I might otherwise have done. But the imposing scale of the Palace is undeniable.
Some parts of the Palace were inaccessible because they were under repair or renovation. In Kyoto it was always evident that the past is constantly under repair. Nothing is exactly as it would have been hundreds of years ago. In many cases entire buildings have been completely rebuilt after fire, flood or war, in this country where fire has been such a major issue for so much of human history. When we were there flooding was extremely recent, with many loves and homes lost. Typhoons were coming, and we sat through a small earthquake in Tokyo.
The gardens were spectacular and so were the exteriors of the buildings, which eviently contain major works of art I didn’t have the chance to see.
The sculpting and protection of trees and shrubs was very striking here too. In the image below right you can see a tree entirely supported by a circular structure. Should you wonder whether I come from a culture in which this is done–I cannot find an English word that could describe this structure and the closest practice to this I can think of would be espalier–or perhaps creating a hedge.
And there you have it–another world heritage listed site from Kyoto full of beauty and wonder.